All posts by reneeinnd

December Farm Update

Sure been a nice week weather-wise. Temps In the 50’s the last few days. Ten-day forecast has the temps in the mid 30’s and no snow. I’m OK with that. My apologies to anyone waiting for snow.

Kelly and I got snowfence up the other day so there’s another thing checked off my list. Glad to have that done. 

There was a little wind to contend with and the cowpies were mostly dry.

Daughter and I did driveway markers. It was colder than I expected that day and she’s not a fan of the wind. Nice that Bailey could keep her company.

They kept me company inside the gator, too.

I was feeding the ducks one morning and that chicken came running from the pole barn, so she’s still back there laying eggs. .Way in the back, down in a corner. I’m still hoping she gets tired of this as the weather gets colder.

Last weekend I redid a few things in the chicken coop. I put the back wall back in place. (I take it off for more ventilation in the summer) and I changed their perches and got the water buckets and heated pad situated for winter.  

It’s odd, they barely use that rear nest box for eggs, often preferring the front unit. One hen must be molting. She looks really rough right now.

I don’t know if her feathers are going to come in a different color than she was? She used to look like the chicken in the front. Boy, hang in there, girl. Egg production is a little down; the old ones are starting to taper off and the new hens are just getting started.

End of the year finances: I’ve paid off our production loans from this years inputs and prepaid some expenses for next year. It’s funny; we have a good year and actually make some money, but it’s tough to save much because taxes will take a big chunk. I know taxes are important and provide a lot of services, but golly. It feels like throwing money in a hole in the ground. I went to the co-op and paid $900 for the grid soil sampling.

Paid $2800 for the lime and applications on half the farm. Prepaid for 4 tons of fertilizer for next year $3400 (again, maybe half of what I’ll need). They don’t have anhydrous nitrogen prices yet and they figure chemicals prices will hold steady so I didn’t pay on them. Easy come, easy go. Sometime before the end of the year I’ll get seed ordered for next year. That also becomes a deduction on this years taxes. Don’t have to pay for it yet, just get it ordered.

Remember getting your first check book? What was the first thing you bought? I bought a Timex Watch and you had to push the button so the time would show up in Red. 

Happy Birds

The warm weather the last several weeks has given us a glimpse of some fun bird behavior.

We have a bird feeder in our backyard that Husband fills with black oil sunflower seeds. We are the only people on the block who feed birds, so our yard is pretty popular, especially given the tall lilac bushes where multitudes can perch. They also like weaving in and out of the twisty grapevines on our deck. There is a very large flock of about seventy sparrows, with several Red Polls, House Finches, Chickadees, Rose and White Breasted Nuthatches, and Junkos who frequent our yard. There are often seven Eurasian Collared Doves on the ground under the feeder, eating what the other birds knock down. A Downy Woodpecker also makes an appearance now and then. They are all really greedy, and feast and gobble as fast as they can. The Chickadees alert the others after Husband refills the empty feeder to let them know that dinner is served.

I cleared out the rhubarb bed the other day, leaving a large area of smooth dirt that the rhubarb leaves had formerly covered. Last Saturday I noticed about twenty Sparrows rolling around in the exposed dirt, digging into the earth, making little indentations in the soil. I guess they were having dust baths, a luxury in North Dakota in late November.

Even more luxurious was the shower they and a migrating flock of Cedar Waxwings had a month ago on the last really warm day of autumn. I set up a sprinkler to water our rhododendrons, bleeding hearts, fern bed, and hydrangeas before freeze up, and we saw the birds flying repeatedly through the spray and huddling on the ground, letting the water cascade over them. The Waxwings made a point of drinking copious amounts of the water that collected on the walkway. The next day, they were gone.

What are your favorite birds to watch? Tell your bird stories. What is your favorite bird-inspired music and visual art?


Husband is always on the lookout for sourdough rye recipes, and settled on a Danish Rugbrød last week. That is the coarse, very thinly-cut type of rye bread baked in a Pullman pan with added sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and rye chops. It is often used as the base for Smørrebrød, those lovely open faced sandwiches..

The recipe he chose took eight days to make, beginning with the sourdough starter. He meticulously measured things as he fed the rye starter, and by Day 8 he was ready to mix up the bread.

The recipe was poorly translated from the Danish, and the exact steps were very difficult to follow. Husband fussed and fussed over getting all the proportions of everything correct at every step. He measured out everything by weight, and had to covert even the liquids from liters to grams. I served as his calculation assistant, and when he asked me to find out how many grams in a deciliter, I knew we were in uncharted territory.

I remember feeling so lost when the metric system was introduced when I was in elementary school. As I helped Husband with his deciliters, I thought of that and how ridiculously logical the metric system is. Why is this so hard for my American brain to comprehend?

The bread turned out quite well. We froze half and plan to send it to the only two Danes we know for their honest opinion.

What are your experiences with the metric system? Why is it hard for the American mind to grasp? What is your favorite bread to bake? Whose opinion do you value?

Royal Mail

Husband and I ordered some classical audio cd’s from Amazon recently. I usually like to order from Archiv, but everything there was on backorder.

Our selections were fairly eclectic, ranging from choral music by Arvo Part and Henrik Goreki, to a cd by Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet, playing with an Irish fiddler.

When you order from Amazon, you never quite know where the products are coming from. Three of the cd’s we ordered came from overseas. A London /Decca recording of Chopin nocturnes played by Vladimir Ashkenazy came from Japan. It arrived speedily, several days before even the US cd’s arrived. It is a lovely recording, but all the liner notes are in Japanese!

Two of the cd’s are coming from England. One is from Banbury, Oxfordshire. The other is from Stockport, in Cheshire. That particular cd is being shipped by Royal Mail. I have no idea what that means in terms of speed of delivery, but it sounds so impressive! I imagine it being delivered by someone in a Beefeater uniform.

Any interesting shipping or delivery stories? What music have you discovered lately? What would you like to receive via Royal Mail?

Great Ideas, Lost

Husband and I have 4×6 inch note pads lying around all over our house. Husband is an inveterate list maker. I want to have pencil and paper handy whenever a potential blog topic comes to me.

I decided to straighten up a bit last weekend, and I found a bunch of blog topics listed on the note pads that I can’t, for the life of me, remember what I was thinking when I wrote them down. Here are a few examples:

Hydrologic Engineer


The Ludicrous Life

What Would Ian Altman Think


Wondrous Vs Wonderful Life

Boccherini at work

I think I need to put a few more details about what I am thinking instead of just writing the topic or title.

How is your memory these days? Come up with some esoteric blog topics. Looking at the above listed ideas I forgot about, what questions would you pair with them?

Musical Chairs

Our bell choir is aging. We have a few members who are in their 30’s and 40’s, but most of us are 60+. The younger players tend to be more agile, and play the smaller bells that require more speed and dexterity. That leaves the treble and bass bells to us slower and steadier players. I play the G and A below middle C. Husband plays the C and D below middle C.

We have five octaves of bells. The bells increase in size as they get lower, and our lowest bell is the F one and a half octaves below middle C. Those bottom bells are huge, and have to be rung with both hands. (Usually, a ringer has at least one bell in each hand. Not these low bells). Our director asked me this week if I would mind switching to the lowest bells, since I am the least arthritic of any of the other older players, and the current player is having too much arm and had pain to continue in that position. I said I would be happy to, but I might invest in some wrist supports.

I shall miss G and A, but it’s nice to have new musical challenges sometimes. I suppose it is a compliment to be the least orthopedically challenged older player in the group.

What are your challenges as you age? What promotions did you experience at work, and how did they work out? What are your experiences in musical emsembles?

Simple Gifts

Husband and I finally had time last weekend to see to the garden to trim the irises, peonies, and day lilies, roll up the soaker hoses to store them in the basement, and take down the bean poles and tomato cages. It has been very cold at night here, with lows of 20°F.

Despite the cold, the spinach and chard have thrived over the past few weeks. Our next door neighbors, whose children help us in our garden, love chard. I only grow it to make a couple of Italian pie of greens each summer, and freeze some for pies in the winter. We always have more than we need, and the neighbors take the fresh chard we gladly give them to extended family gatherings where they cook it up and sprinkle it with vinegar. It is their family delicacy.

I thought I had picked the last bit of chard a couple of weeks ago, but during our garden clean up I noticed that the remaining chard had grown some pretty big leaves. I asked the neighbor if he could use some more, and he and the children came over and clipped the chard to the ground for one last autumn feast.

Husband visits a couple of our Lutheran congregation members who reside in an assisted living community to bring them communion. There is always an exchange of their homemade pickles and slices of pie for our pesto sauce and pastries. Simple gifts that mean so much.

What are the simple gifts that are precious for you to give and to get? Have any of your pets brought you “gifts”?

End of October

We got 0.4” rain Thursday night. Made a puddle where I throw out corn and the ducks appreciate having their drinking water 5 steps from the food.

It’s gonna get cold next week. I better take the outside faucet out of the wellhouse and move the pressure washer someplace heated. I supply straw to a neighborhood strawberry farm to cover their berries in the winter. They took 150 bales right off a wagon this summer and now they’re ready to cover the berries and will need another “15-50” bales. And another person near them wants 15 bales so I will take 60 over on a trailer tomorrow.

I saw Lowes the other day, selling regular size small bales of straw (not the mini- decoration bales) for $13 / bale. Wowzer! I need to raise my prices.

I haven’t had time to do any farming the last few weeks. The neighbors are all crazy busy combining corn and doing fieldwork and doing all that stuff they need to do. I’ve got a show to open (Will be open when you read this) plus the finishing touches on the theater remodeling project (Open house on the 6th) and a Lab quiz Monday in Geology class (identifying rocks and minerals) so studying for that plus regular class homework. So, I don’t have time to farm anyway for a couple weeks yet… what I have to do when I get time is get the new gear box put on the brush mower and finish working on the grain drill and other things on my home “To do” list.

Duck update – Missing the old, balding, poofy one… down to 6 poofs. And it’s hard to say if the old one died or got snatched. The five black and white ones are still there, the 4 cream colored ones are still there, and I have a hard time getting a good count on the brown ones; 20 or 21 but they’re still there.

We have 3 guinea fowl on the farm. They’re terrible mothers; lay a nest of 20 eggs and get up and walk away after the first 6 or 8 hatch. Usually a cold rainy day in October. Last week one day, first cold night with freezing temps, there she is with 6 babies.

The three seem to be cooperative parenting. And the 6 babies have made it a week now.  But don’t hold your breath.  We could catch them and move them inside… but that takes a while and it’s more chores and I just can’t take it on right now. We had been taking about getting more guineas next summer anyway.

I was at the doctor this week; nothing serious, just ‘old man skin’ and had a couple spots frozen off. Lost my only wisdom spot… guess I wasn’t using it enough.

I mentioned the other day I’ve had music of ‘Pink Floyd in my head all week. Still there. I’ve been listening to a lot of that. Loud. It’s better that way.

Here’s some of the neighbor’s cows at our place.

Did you ever think you were going to get old? How does it compare to what you imagined as a kid?


Today is the anniversary of the Wall Street Crash in 1929 that started the Great Depression. My great grandmother had invested in some Texas oil company stock and lost a good bit of money. My parents would often talk about the closing of the banks. It was a huge disaster for them and really influenced the trajectory of their lives.

I have never been a great fan of disaster movies. I just don’t like the suspense. I think the worst one I ever saw was a fairly modern one in which the magnetic poles changed position, and the North Pole was somewhere around Minneapolis, and all the oceans flooded dry land, exposing new dry land, and anyone who survived was on this one ship which contained survivors and all that remained of Western Civilization. I have no idea how or why I came to be watching it. I was most tolerant of disaster movies when I was in high school. The Poseidon Adventure comes to mind.

What are your favorite or least favorite disaster movies? Which movies to do think are real disasters? How did your family fare in the Great Depression? Why do you think that disasters are such popular fodder for entertainment?


My van was in the shop last week for new brake pads. My office building is a mile down the same road as the dealership, so it should have been a straight shot for the driver of the courtesy car to get me and take me back to the dealership to retrieve the van when it was finished. There has been extensive construction work on the road, however, so he had to take me the winding, back way through a new housing development behind my work and the dealership.

The driver was younger, a mid-30’s guy who doubles as a mechanic, and he told me that he grew up in an older section of houses also right behind my work. He even pointed out his parents’ home. He remembered when the area of the new development was just tree shelter belts and bare plains. He reminisced with great wistfulness about the trees that were no longer there and all the “forts” he and the kids in the neighborhood would make among the trees and how they would raid the other forts and all the fun they had.

This put in mind all the forts my cousins and I would try to erect in and around the trees in the groves on their farms, trying to nail boards together to make structures and how exciting it was to sit in them. (Here, they are shelter belts. In Minnesota, they are groves).

Children love forts, even if they consist of blankets thrown over the sides of end tables. I remember my mother throwing a blanket over the sides of my crib, and how oddly satisfying that was. I couldn’t have been more than 3. Our children, too, loved blanket forts, and any small enclosure they could erect and escape into. We even had a book about innovative ways to make forts.

What are your memories of forts? Why do you think children like forts? Did you or anyone you know ever have a tree house? Any good tree climbing stories?